The day that Jeno meets Mark is also the day that he skateboards straight into a lamppost. Not that the two things are related in any way, shape, or form. Or at least that’s what he tells Jaemin later when he gets back to their room later with a black eye, bloody scratches on his elbows and Mark’s number scribbled in black marker on the back of his hand.
The truth, however, goes something like this: Jeno’s late for class. Not that that’s anything unusual. It’s an 8 am class that he hates his past self for signing up to and he can’t remember the last time that he was actually there on time.
Jeno is many things. A complete dumbass if you listen to Jaemin, an okay student if you look at his class records and someone who needs to turn up to soccer practice more if you listen to what Yuta has to say (not that anyone does). But for all these things, he’s not someone who learns from his mistakes.
Which is why at 8:05 am he’s scrambling to get out of their room while Jaemin sits on the couch wrapped in a blanket and laughing at him.
“Your shirts on inside out.” He snickers and Jeno wheels around in an attempt to see over his own shoulder to figure out if Jaemin is telling the truth or trying to antagonise him. It doesn’t work. He only succeeds in dropping the stack of papers in his hand and knocking a plate off the side with his bag.
As it turns out, Jaemin had been right.
“I’m making a fashion statement.” Jeno says and Jaemin snorts. At least this time Jeno isn’t turning up in his pyjamas.
“I doubt you’ve ever made a fashion statement in your life.” Jeno gives up on trying to shove papers into his bag to stick his middle finger up at Jaemin.
He barely remembers to grab his skateboard on the way out, ignoring Jaemin shouting at him to be careful. The lift is out of order as it has been since the start of the year, so Jeno takes the stairs, flying down them two at a time. Honestly, it’s a miracle that he hasn’t broken his neck yet.
Jeno is by every definition a pretty shit skateboarder. He’s good enough to get from A to B without dying and it’s cheaper than buying a bike or taking the bus and faster than walking so he sticks with it despite Jaemin constantly nagging him about how it’s only a matter of time before he breaks a limb.
He flies down the pavement, swerving around other students and a couple of old ladies. At one point he narrowly avoids going straight into a busy road when he forgets to slow down before turning a corner.
Somehow he makes it to the main campus in one piece and he can count the number of times he got shouted at by people he almost knocked over on one hand which is something of a novelty. He whizzes past the fountain, past the arts building and he’s almost there when he sees him.
He’s leaning on the shoulder of a boy from Jeno’s biology class- Renjun?- bent over laughing way too hard at something given how early in the morning it is. And he’s cute. Like a chorus of angels just descended from heaven and the world just stopped spinning on its axis cute. Jeno could probably write pages of poetry about the way his nose scrunches up as he giggles and the way his eyes sparkle. And that’s saying something because Jeno had barely managed to scrape a pass in high school English.
He’s so busy staring that he doesn’t see the lamppost until he collides with it head first.
What happens after that is a vague blur. His feet go flying out from under him and he hits the tarmac so hard that all the air gets knocked out of his lungs. There’s a loud ringing in his ears and his vision switches between black and a blurry mess. His head feels like it’s been split open and he’s almost definitely sure that he’s bleeding.
“Shit, are you okay?” The voice sounds concerned and he can’t work out what direction it’s coming from “You look like you fell hard.”
“Yeah, I heard him hit the lamppost from all the way over there.”
“Shut up Renjun.” The first voice hisses and the boy from before appears in Jeno’s line of vision, bending over him with a worried look on his face. He’s even cuter up close and if Jeno hadn’t already been winded he’d probably have forgotten how to breathe.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re really, really pretty.” Jeno says, words slurring together slightly.
Renjun snorts “Yeah he’s fine.”
Mystery boy ignores him this time “Your head looks kinda bad dude.”
“It’s fine, I’m fine.” Jeno waves his hand around to try and prove his point and then sits up and immediately wishes he hadn’t. Everything around him starts spinning at an alarming rate and nausea creeps its way up his throat. He fights the urge to throw up or lie back down and die and instead sits there, staring at the floor and breathing deeply.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Jeno nods and forces himself to not wince. He’s already made enough of a fool of himself. Mystery boy holds his hand out and Jeno stares at him blankly.
“I’m trying to help you up.” He says and he’s smiling slightly, Jeno feels like he’s looking into the sun. He takes his hand and mystery boy pulls him to his feet, Jeno stumbles, but by some miracle he stays standing. Behind them, Renjun checks his watch impatiently.
“I’m really sorry, but I’ve got to get to class. I’ve got an important project due.” He gives them an apologetic smile.
“I’ll see you later.” Mystery boy says and waves at Renjun as he practically sprints off towards the arts building. Jeno just watches.
“Do you want me to take you to A&E or something? I don’t really know what to do when people hit their heads, I mean you might have a concussion or-”
“I’ll be fine, honestly,” Jeno cuts him off “I’ve survived worse.” That’s not exactly a lie. Last summer he’d broken his arm when Jaemin had dared him to stand on the roof of Jaemin’s shitty little ford while Jaemin drove it down a back road. Jaemin had had to brake suddenly to avoid colliding with another car and Jeno had gone flying. Maybe he’s partially to blame for that one but he likes to pretend it’s all Jaemin’s fault anyway.
“If you’re sure…” Mystery boy says, he doesn’t sound convinced “Sorry I just realised I never asked what your name was.”
“Cool, I’m Mark.” Mystery boy- Mark- scratches the back of his neck awkwardly “You can let go of my hand now.” Jeno glances down and sure enough, he’s still got a death grip on Mark’s hand from when he’d helped him up off the floor. He snatches his hand back like he’s been burned.
“Sorry, I should get going now, I’ve got a class to get to.”
“You’re still going to class like that?”
There’s blood on his hands from where gravel got stuck in them and there’s a new tear in his jeans over his right knee. His elbows feel as if someone had shredded them with a cheese grater and then set them on fire. Going to class is the last thing he wants to do right now
“My attendance is already bad enough so I can’t really skip.” Jeno shrugs.
Mark doesn’t look particularly happy and his face is still stuck in a worried frown. It looks cute, not that Jeno would say that out loud “At least let me give you my number so that you can text me when you get home so that I know that you didn’t die.” He bites his lip and shoves his hands into his pockets awkwardly. Again, it’s cute. “I’d feel shit if I let you go to class instead of dragging you to the Doctors and something bad happened.”
“Okay,” Jeno says. He doesn’t trust himself to say anything longer. Saying things that make sense and don’t embarrass him isn’t his strong point at the best of times. Right now, he’s possibly concussed and standing opposite a cute boy. It’s definitely not a good time.
Mark fishes around in his bag and pulls out a sharpie “Give me your hand.”
Jeno complies and Mark scribbles his number onto the back of Jeno’s hand complete with ‘-mark!!!’ and a smiley face.
“There,” Mark says “Don’t forget to text me later to say you’re okay or I’ll assume you’re lying in a ditch by the side of the road somewhere and call the police.” Jeno isn’t sure he’s entirely joking.
Jeno gives him a thumbs up “I’ll see you around?”
“Hopefully under better circumstances.” Mark grins and then turns and heads in the same direction Renjun had. Jeno watches until he’s out of sight and then picks up his skateboard and limps to his lecture.
Needless to say, actually bothering to turn up was something of a bust. He’s too late to understand what the professor is talking about and his head feels like it’s being impaled from several directions by red-hot pokers. So, he zones out and stares at the wall for the remaining hour and hopes that the lecture notes are actually online for once.
When he gets home Jaemin is still sitting in the same spot on the couch that he’d been in when Jeno had left and he’s typing something on his laptop. He gives Jeno a curious look when he walks in and opens his mouth to say something.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Jeno mumbles, he knows that Jaemin will make him explain the whole thing in full detail later but right now he feels like shit and the only thing he wants to do is sleep. He stumbles into his room and collapses face down onto his bed, throwing his bag unceremoniously onto the ground. Whether or not everything in there stays in one piece is a problem for future Jeno.
Just as he’s about to fall asleep he catches sight of his hand and realises he forgot to text Mark. He pulls his phone out, punches the number in and sends a quick message without being bothered to proofread it.
Like most things that end badly, it starts with Donghyuck. They’re sitting in a cafe near campus, notes spread across the table between them and not actually getting any work done. Jaemin has balled his hoodie up underneath his head and is taking a nap on the table and Chenle has his feet up on the table next to Jaemin’s head and is busy texting someone.
Soft afternoon light streams in through the windows and faint music is playing somewhere in the background. It’s calm and peaceful and Jeno loves it. He doodles something on the corner of a flashcard humming quietly to himself. Across from him, Donghyuck carefully puts his pen down, abandoning his shitty cartoon drawing of Jaemin’s sleeping face, and stares at Jeno expectantly.
“So,” Donghyuck pauses for effect and Jeno knows that whatever comes next is going to be bad. So much for peace “Are you coming to the party next Friday?”
It’s Donghyuck asking so Jeno knows from experience that that means ‘you better be coming or I’ll drag you there myself.’
“I guess,” He stirs his iced coffee with the straw “Is it the one Yukhei’s holding?”
“Bingo!” Donghyuck says with a grin.
Jeno fights the urge to groan and hit his head on the table because if Yukhei’s there then he and Donghyuck will be joined at the hip all night leaving Jeno to sit alone in a corner. It should be okay if he can bully Jaemin into going with them as well.
“Fine, I’ll come.” Jeno says and Donghyuck cheers so loudly that Jaemin wakes with a start and almost falls sideways off his chair. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
His phone buzzes and he picks it up off the table and he can’t help smiling when he sees the name on the screen.
I woke up like 5 minutes ago so that means it still counts as morning
Mark’s been texting him on and off in the few days since they had met and Jeno had completely embarrassed himself. They never talk about anything deep or serious, but it’s nice having someone to talk to about the slightly more stupid things in life like running out of cereal, or the stress of deadlines. At first, Jeno had been worried that Mark had just been texting him to make sure he hadn’t died of internal bleeding ( it could’ve happened, Jaemin had read the WebMD article on head injuries) but the bruise around his eye has faded from indigo to a sickly yellow and Mark is still texting him.
They’d met up a couple of times as well. Nothing special, just to get coffee in the ten or fifteen minutes they had free between classes and Jeno was scared to say it in case he jinxed it or tell Donghyuck in case he ruined it by turning up and telling Mark that Jeno had a crush on him, but it was starting to become part of his routine.
“What’re you smiling at,” Donghyuck asks, leaning forward across the table to try and get a look at Jeno’s phone screen “Is it lover boy.”
“None of your business,” Jeno replies and moves his phone as far away from Donghyuck as he can, trying to ignore the blush he can feel creeping across his cheeks.
“So it is lover boy!” Donghyuck crows, his eyes lighting up like twin spotlights and as much as Jeno loves his friend at that moment he wishes that he’d never met him.
“Shut up,” Jeno says “It’s not like that, we’re just friends.”
“But you wish it was like that.” Damn Donghyuck and his uncanny ability to read people.
“I do not!” Jeno exclaims and it doesn’t even sound convincing to his own ears.
“Sure thing.” Donghyuck says with a grin. Jeno sticks his tongue out at him
Friday evening comes around way faster than he thought possible and before he knows it, Donghyuck is barging into his apartment and yelling at him to get dressed.
“But I am dressed,” Jeno groans. It’s no use fighting against Donghyuck really, he’s like a force of nature.
“Whatever the fuck you picked up off your bedroom floor this morning and wore to class all day doesn’t count.” Donghyuck says pointing a finger at Jeno.
“Why aren’t you bugging Jaemin as well?” Jeno protests, already getting up off the sofa.
“Because Jaemin doesn’t look like a mess all the time,” Donghyuck says with a sense of finality and then before Jeno can complain about how he doesn’t look like a mess “Hurry up we’re going to be late.”
The party is already in full swing by the time they get there. Music is playing so loud that Jeno can hear it from halfway down the street and by the time they get to the house he can feel the bass pulsing in his chest like a second heartbeat. Donghyuck abandons them as soon as they get through the door, making a beeline for Yukhei and greeting him with a shout before stealing his drink straight out of his hand and downing most of it in a couple of seconds. Yukhei doesn’t seem to mind. He just watches Donghyuck with the same lovesick puppy eyes that he always does. Young love. Jeno snorts and turns to Jaemin.
“I’m going to get a drink, do you want anything?”
Jaemin shakes his head and points to his own chest “Designated sober friend, remember? I’ll probably get some water or something later, but I’m okay for now.”
Jeno nods and Jaemin disappears into the crowd. He’ll find him later. Maybe. Probably.
The kitchen is practically empty apart from a couple making out next to the sink and Jeno does his best to ignore them as he roots through the fridge looking for the least disgusting drink he can find. Yukhei’s a great guy but he and his friends have shit taste in booze. It’s all cheap beer and not much else.
Everything’s quieter in the kitchen and the music is muted but still loud enough to be obnoxious. Some tasteless heterosexual is playing the Chainsmokers. He finally finds a bottle of something that doesn’t look too gross and opens it before turning to leave the kitchen. His head is in the clouds and he doesn’t realise someone is coming the opposite way through the door until he walks straight into them. His drink splashes all over him and the other person as Jeno slips, tries to save himself and fails and falls straight onto his ass.
“We have to stop meeting like this.” Mark says with a grin, he doesn’t seem to mind that his shirt is soaked.
Life: 2, Jeno: 0
Great, out of everyone he had to make a fool of himself in front of it just had to be Mark because apparently the universe hates him and wants him dead. He isn’t even drunk yet.
“You’re like a bad luck charm,” Jeno says “Stuff like this only happens when you’re around.”
Mark giggles- honest to god giggles “Sure it does.”
“Your shirt is ruined,” Jeno says with a groan as he stands up. Way to go Jeno, impress the cute boy you like by spilling a bright red drink down his white shirt, perfect! “I’m so, so sorry I swear-”
“It’s fine,” Mark waves off his apologies “But I do know what you could do to make it up to me.”
“Buy me a slushy.” Mark says. Jeno blinks in surprise, he’d been expecting something a lot worse. He wasn’t sure what exactly but definitely something worse.
Mark nods “I’ve been craving a blue raspberry one for ages.”
“But we’re in the middle of a party and-”
“We’ll be back before anyone notices.” Mark says confidently and he definitely isn’t wrong. Donghyuck will inevitably be attached to Yukhei for the rest of the night and Jaemin is friends with just about everyone. They’ll be fine if he leaves for a bit.
“Okay,” Jeno says “Okay, let’s go.”
Mark whoops and grabs Jeno’s hand, dragging him past the gaggle of people outside the door to the kitchen and out of the house. He doesn’t let go of Jeno’s hand even when they’re walking down the street and Jeno chooses not to mention it.
Streetlights bathe them in an orange glow and drain their faces of colour. Mark sort of looks like a ghost walking beside Jeno, or maybe a freakishly well-preserved zombie. His skin is completely grey with a slightly yellow tinge and Jeno guesses he must look about the same. Mark chatters excitedly the whole way there, telling Jeno stories about the photography class he has with Renjun and how the other week he’d got stuck up a tree trying to take a photo of a birds nest ”dude you had to have been there it was so funny, Renjun almost called the fire service when I couldn’t get down.” and Jeno’s happy to listen and laugh in the right places because he’s kinda flustered and anything he tries to say would come out as garbled gibberish.
The walk to the gas station takes less time than Jeno wants it to. Mark lets go of his hand and pushes through the door and Jeno lets himself feel sad about it for a second before following after him. The inside of the gas station is brightly lit and the harsh artificial light stings Jeno’s eyes before they adjust. Even compared to the empty streets outside it’s oddly quiet, just the humming of the air conditioner and squeak of their shoes on the linoleum floor. It’s like they’ve slipped out of reality into some sort of purgatory.
Mark makes his way up to the cashier “Two blue slushies please.” The guy grunts and turns to get them. He hits the machine a couple of times and whether it’s out of annoyance at people buying slushies at 11:30 at night or to get the machine to work, Jeno isn’t sure.
“Sorry, I assumed you’d want one.” Mark says to Jeno and he nods.
“Yeah- yeah I did. Thank you.”
Cashier guy all but slams the slushies onto the counter “That’ll be four dollars.” Jeno pulls a crumpled bill out of his pocket and hands it over. Cashier guy sighs and opens the till pulls out the correct change and shoves it into Jeno’s hand. He must really hate his job.
They end up sitting on the curb outside the gas station. Neither of them really wants to go back to the party quite yet. Jeno’s phone has been silent since they left which means his friends still haven’t figured out that he’s gone and he might as well make the most of this time with Mark. After all, it’s unlikely they’ll get to hang out again anytime soon what with finals being right around the corner and them not really being close friends.
They sit in silence for a few minutes watching the odd car go past and then “When you fell off your skateboard,” Mark says, putting his slushy down “And you said I was pretty, did you mean it? Or was that just the concussion.”
Jeno chokes on his slushy.
“I meant it.” He says eventually when he finally stops coughing “I wasn’t concussed.”
Mark nods awkwardly “Okay, that's cool.” He scratches the back of his neck and avoids eye contact, staring at the road instead. Jeno feels dread wash over him like the ocean in winter “For what it’s worth I think you’re really pretty too.”
Jeno narrowly avoids choking on his slushy again. That definitely wasn’t what he’d been expecting.
“And,” Mark continues, either ignoring Jeno’s near-death experience or oblivious to it “I think you’re really funny even though you don’t think you are and your smile is like, brighter than the sun, even when you’ve been hit on the head by a lamppost which should be impossible and-” He stops and pauses for a second “Sorry I’m not doing this very well am I? What I’m trying to say is that I like you. Like you like you.” He’s playing with his hands nervously. Cute the part of his brain that’s still functioning remarks.
Jeno sits there in shocked silence, opening and closing his mouth like a fish. When he’d thought about this happening, he’d always been the one who confessed first and Mark had turned him down with a small smile and a “Sorry, I just see you as a friend.”. It definitely hadn’t been Mark confessing to him, sitting by the side of the road with a half-melted slushy in his hand and his ass going numb from sitting on the ground for about five minutes too long.
Mark seems to take his shocked silence as horror instead of, well, shock “God, I’m so sorry,” He groans and buries his face in his hands “I shouldn’t have said that.” His voice is muffled now but Jeno can still just about hear him.
Jeno sits there in silence for a few more seconds weighing up his options before gently taking Mark’s hands in his own, pulling them away from his face “I like you too.”
Lee Jeno literary genius strikes again.
Mark blinks at him in surprise “What, really?”
“Yes really.” Jeno says with a laugh “I’ve kinda liked you since we first met. I fell off my skateboard because I was too busy staring at you.” He can feel himself blushing as he admits it, it wasn’t exactly a smooth first impression.
“Huh.” Mark says dumbly and then “You’re cute did I say that before?”
Fuck it Jeno thinks and brings his hand up and cups Mark’s cheek in his palm, his slushy beside him on the pavement has been long forgotten, and Mark finally looks at him, finally meets his eyes. At some point that Jeno can’t quite remember, they’d drifted closer to each other and now Mark’s face is only centimetres from his, their noses almost touching. Against Jeno’s better judgment, he leans forward and closes the gap between their lips. The kiss is only brief, Jeno barely presses his lips against Mark’s before pulling back because if there is a line he doesn’t want to fuck this all up by crossing it.
Mark looks slightly dazed and he tilts his head to one side slightly in confusion “Did that really just happen or am I imagining things?”
“It happened.” Jeno confirms and this time when they kiss, Mark’s the one who leans forward first.
Like all good things, it ends too soon. Jeno’s ringtone cuts through the air like a knife and he and Mark break apart with a start, their foreheads almost knocking together. Cursing under his breath, Jeno fishes it out of his jacket pocket and answers it.
”Dude, where the hell are you?” Donghyuck’s voice is slightly slurred and Jeno can barely make out what he’s saying over the music in the background. It’s an Ed Sheeran song. Jeno’s glad he didn’t stick around to hear that.
“I’m with Mark,” He says “We left to get slushies.” Donghyuck only seems to hear the first part of what he says.
”Ooooo you’re with Mark. Tell lover boy I said hi.” He says and then Jeno can hear him yell to someone else “He’s with Mark
”Tell Jeno I’m going to kick his ass for vanishing.” The person yells back.
”Jaemin says he’s gonna kick your ass and unless you want me to help him you better get back here now.” Donghyuck doesn’t sound annoyed though, more like he finds this whole thing funny.
Jeno sighs “Okay fine, I’ll see you in a minute.”
“Love you-” Jeno hangs up on him.
“I guess we should head back then.” Mark stands up and holds his hand out to Jeno who takes it and allows himself to be pulled to his feet. It gives him a weird sense of deja vu.
“Shame,” Jeno says, entwining his fingers with Mark’s “At least you got your slushy.”
“Do you want to go out once finals are over?” Mark asks, swinging their hands between them as they walk slowly back to the house.
Jeno gasps dramatically “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“I was going to before,” Mark says “But you kissed me before I got the chance.”
“Yes, I’d love to go on a date with you.” Jeno says strategically ignoring what Mark just said “Just keep me away from skateboards or anything else with wheels.”
Every cloud has a silver lining, and if hitting that lamppost head first on the way to class was the cloud, then this is one hell of a silver lining.